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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Afflicted: Guest Review

Welcome! I've returned now that Summer Vacation has begun and I've got a wonderful little gift for all of our loyal guests at "Hotel de Musings". Today we've got Jelsa, a warmly-welcomed friend, to be our guest reviewer for Afflicted, the sequel to Battle Scars by Sophie Monroe.

1/5 stars

Every pet peeve that I have, I found in this novel. To prove I’m not crazy, I have marked some quotes from the book to back up my points. Here goes:

Repetition of words:
The word “fuck” appears 146 times in the novel. Not only that, the novel is only 197 pages. A few pages had this word on it three or four times. Yes, people curse. But when characters are resorting to only using curse words instead of word choice with more substance, it becomes annoying instead of an asset.

“Another part of my anatomy” (page 6) /“Certain part of my anatomy” (page 25) --> This is Blake referencing his, for lack of a better word, genitals. Not only is that phrase repeated, but it is also not what a teenage male would actually think. To add to the inconsistency, partway through Blake starts referencing this part of his anatomy as “bam-bam,” which is apparently what he has named it. There are so many things wrong with that name that I don’t even want to unpack them. Piper also somehow knows its name. However Blake never mentions it to her, which means Piper must’ve read Blake’s mind or something.

The phrase “claimed my mouth” is often associated with kissing in this novel. Not only is this an awkward phrase, it also doesn’t show what is actually happening. There’s different types of kisses and different lengths of kisses. None of this information is shown when this phrase is constantly used over and over again. The phrase “kissed me passionately” is used over and over again as well. (I also noticed this in Carrier of the Mark.) That phrase also does not give readers real information about anything that is actually happening.

Description of Characters:
Character descriptions are there for a reason. One of my pet peeves is when character descriptions are blocked together, they’re all formatted the same way, and they’re very stereotypical. This book’s character descriptions fell under all three categories.

For example, on page 20 Blake meets a girl named Hayley after a set.

She was a petite brunette with the body of a swimsuit model.

Descriptions like these can be weaved in much more subtly. Describing a girl by her body more instead of her face also doesn’t really make sense because most people look at faces first when they meet people.
On page 35, Piper describes her boyfriend, Cole.

“He was handsome in an all-American boy way with his military haircut and freshly shaved face. He had dark brown hair, big brown eyes and a perfect smile.”

My critique of this sentence would be the following:
-What is the “all-American boy way”?

-Hair and eyes description is at the same time. Usually this should be spread out. Putting them together is very stereotypical.

-What is her definition of a “perfect smile”? Some people like dimples. Some don’t. Letting readers know this information makes the characters more realistic.

Unlikable Characters
There was not a single likable character in this entire novel. Blake is a sex-obsessed boy who spends almost the entire book sleeping with different girls. While relationship abuse is a very serious matter, the relationship abuse in this novel was strung along and repeated over and over just so the book would have some sort of plot. (Although not a very interesting one.) Readers have no reason to want Piper and Cole to remain together. Of course, Piper does end up with Blake, but if Cole is going to be in the novel, readers need to understand him. No character is 100% “good” or 100% “bad.” 

A successful story is able to reveal a characters’ strengths and weaknesses, no matter if they’re protagonists or antagonists. In this novel Cole was 150% antagonistic and, while I also really hated Blake throughout the novel, at least Blake wasn’t abusive.

Also, Blake is definitely a Gary-sue. Every girl he runs into wants to get into his pants, simply because he’s “attractive.” While physical appearance is what most people first notice about other people, a relationship based solely on physical and sexual attraction doesn’t last long in the real world. In the real world people have emotions. Many emotional things and emotional moments happened in this novel, but the emotions were skimmed over and usually sex resulted. As a reader this was very frustrating. While I know that sex before marriage is common in today’s society, reading six sex scenes about fifty pages into a novel is definitely a plot issue. This was a sign of an entire novel of relying on sex for intimacy instead of compassion, emotional intimacy, and friendship.

Besides seeing each other as sex partners, I see no reason for Blake and Piper to be attracted to each other. I was holding out for a well-written emotional scene to redeem this novel, but I was sorely disappointed.

Grammatical mistakes:
My biggest grammatical pet peeve is when people do not punctuate dialogue correctly. Throughout the entire novel, the dialogue grammar was punctuated incorrectly, and it was very difficult to force myself to keep reading on because there is a legitimate way to properly format dialogue, believe it or not.

For example:

Page 8: “Every thing’s going to be fine. Stop worrying.” She teased, placing her hand to the side of my face in an effort to comfort me.

I see more than one problem with those sentences, but I’ll stick to my point for now.

“Teased” is synonymous to “said.” Therefore the punctuation should be:
“Stop worrying,” she teased, placing…

Another option would be to format it with the verb beginning its own sentence, which would look like:
“Stop worrying.” She placed her hand to the side of my face.

When a whole novel has that error throughout it and this author has already published a few novels, this is absolutely unacceptable. If this error happened once or twice, that’s forgivable. But when a whole novel is written that way, that is a huge problem.

(By the way, notice how “every thing” is separated when it should be joined. That’s one of many mistakes in this novel.)

Throughout the novel, there were also instances where the narration would switch from past to present tense and then back to past tense. After a certain point I got tired of recording examples, but here is one from page 16.

I tried calling Rowan again and got her voicemail. We’ve been playing phone tag all week, but in three days we would be in Arizona and I planned on surprising her.

Somehow the author managed to use past, present, and future tense in one sentence. This was, however, done incorrectly. In the second sentence “we’ve” should be “we’d.”

Not only is changing tense incorrect, but it’s also confusing. If a reader begins reading in past tense, they expect the story to stay in past tense. If it switches to present it implies that there’s been a shift in time when there hasn’t been. (I’ll admit this excerpt is not the best example, but at least it gets the point across.)

My favorite mistake was by far the following sentence from page 126.
She walked over to the China cabinet.
China is the country, not a type of silverware.

Okay, I take back what I said. This is my favorite mistake, from page 92.
“I really like her mom and I’m looking forward to bringing her home to visit with me so you can meet her.”

Blake was referring to Piper, not her mom, while talking to his own mother. The lack of commas and punctuation in proper places was a nice recipe for giving this reader a good laugh after reading this sentence.
I could go on about a character “balling” their eyes out on page 158 and find other examples, but that probably covers the grammar inaccuracies enough.

Could’ve Been Written Better:
There were several info-dumps in the novel (the prologue, page 16, page 32 for an info-dump on Piper, and yet another info-dump on page 34. If I’m talking about myself and I say I have black hair and brown eyes and a dog named Waffles that likes to take walks and I like to read and write young adult novels and I’m in a relationship for the first time in my life going on nine months almost and I have two younger brothers who like to play basketball and I’m in college studying to be a psychology and child development major with a minor in music (if you read all that I apologize, it was to make a point) and I just talk about superficial things that could be shown in a novel all in one place, readers get bored and glaze over it. Readers have no reason to care about all that information. Instead if an author wants to reveal information about a character, it can be weaved in subtly.

 A character’s brothers and dog can wait to show up somewhere else in the novel. The major and minor in college information can be shown through a character having a violin recital, or reading a psychology textbook or talking about a psychology experiment such as the slippery slope or Milgram’s experiment (it was quite shocking, I suggest you check it out. Sorry for my awful pun). Then the information adds to the story instead of wasting space.

I don’t even remember what I read about Blake and Piper because honestly, 1) I didn’t care and 2) all the information was in one place, and it was ridiculously long. Through editing and better writing all this information could’ve been shown instead of told, as well as have enriched the story greatly instead of boring readers. 

This might just be my personal opinion, but it would be nice to know a main character’s name somewhat soon after that character’s introduction. In this novel Piper’s last name isn’t revealed until page 191, less than 10 pages from the ending. As a reader I might not have liked Piper a whole lot, but less than 10 pages from the ending is not the place to reveal a main character’s last name.

A birthing scene does not take half an hour. However the birthing scene on page 196 spans merely a few paragraphs and takes half an hour. No mention of the pain involved and fatigue. The author clearly did not research birthing, which usually takes around 10-12 hours just to finish the first of three parts. About half an hour to an hour is usually involved in the actual birthing process, followed by the after birth. In the book it’s very casually mentioned that the entire process takes half an hour, which is very inaccurate.

Even if Piper was far enough along that the second part was already beginning, she would’ve been in pain much sooner than described in the novel. Considering a good part of the novel hinges on the fact that Piper got pregnant, this scene should be much more important, lengthier, and more accurate.
Telling, not Showing

There were many examples of this, but let me just name a few:
Page 33: His expression menacing…
Page 34: He truly did look sorry…
Page 37: He looked torn…
Page 38: Clearly torn up about the whole conversation…
Page 157: I said firmly, getting angry with her…

70% of communication is body language. 20% is tone, and 10% is the actual words communicated. What does it mean to have a menacing expression, look truly sorry, or torn? It varies based on character. Some characters are more physically expressive while some turn away when upset. People also express their anger differently. The author missed many opportunities to show how the characters are different because of simply telling emotions instead of showing them. Yes, emotions were (and should) be present due to the subject matter in this novel. They just weren’t presented in a way that a reader can actually connect to.

This topic was basically covered throughout the other sections, so I’ll let this be and recommend no one read this novel. (If I rate a book 1 out of 5 stars, then it’s synonymous to “I don’t recommend it for anyone.”) If what you’re looking for is a novel driven by sex and the same plot points bouncing back and forth, go ahead. But if you’re looking for a book that shows characters struggling through real issues aided by each other emotionally with a real plot line, this is not your book.

If you read this far, thank you for your time, and happy reading.


Come again! I hope you heed Jelsa's advice, I mean. I took a gander at the book myself and let me just say that I completely agree with everything she's said! 

Beware this book, beware! 

Sorry Madame Monroe, but we'll be looking for a better turnout from you soon, eh?

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